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Walking as Critical Pedagogy

Waking as a teaching, learning, and pedagogic practice builds upon a long history of walking as a research method alongside participatory and biographical methods to teach Sociology, Criminology and Women and Gender studies in sensory and corporeal ways. Learning can be convivial, multi-modal and does not just take place in the head but in the heart and body. Learning is a thinking, feeling and embodied practice. 

As a teaching and learning method, walking attends to the landmarks, spaces, places, that hold stories of women and their contribution to society, arts, culture and the sciences. We slow down, take time to find and reflect upon the landmarks in the city, making use of local experts, the available literature, oral histories, folk knowledge and archives. 

This first Feminist Walk of Cork is an example of a ‘connected curriculum’ (UCC), a collaboration between the university and community partners. It is a good example of working together, sharing knowledge and expertise that enables us to be more than the sum of our parts. It is an example of participatory, collaborative research and practice that shares in a collective way our combined expertise and knowledge.

Through walking (as a teaching, learning, and research method), we are able to get in touch with the past, with history in the present, and possible futures in ways we cannot forget. Knowledge and understanding stays with us because it is embodied learning that facilitates ‘understanding’ in corporeal, sensory, relational, and material ways and, in this way, forms a critical, cultural, mobile pedagogy. Walking through the city, engaging with spaces, places, and stories associated with women, social justice, sexual and social inequalities, and women’s presence and role in the city, provides a convivial, critical and imaginative method for doing feminisms in societies on the move. In summary, walking in the city of Cork, connecting with the landmarks, places, and stories embedded in those places, can elicit ways of both knowing and understanding women’s lives and roles in the city, and in history, which inspires our feminist imaginations, as critical and convivial pedagogy.

Inspired by walking artists and sociologists from the South (an example of de-colonial thinking), especially sociologists who developed participatory ways of doing research, working with not on or for, the participatory methods we used to develop the walk are important  for three reasons: 


  1. We place an emphasis on collectivities (working as a team, building trust and collaborative working, and developing a subject–subject ethos across the research and development process).

  2. We conduct a critical recovery of history when researching the women and places, based upon the use of historical, personal, folk, and archival materials and especially the oral tradition, which can be supportive of community knowledge. Recognising and valuing the knowledge and expertise embedded in communities.

  3. The importance of sharing knowledge in understandable and meaningful ways, so our research and walks can both collaborate with and reach broader publics. 

History and Context of The Walk

The idea for the walk started with discussions with BA students in Sociology, Criminology and History before Covid-19 lockdown, alongside a walking symposium, Walking Conversations in collaboration with the Dingle Creativity and Innovation Hub. The symposium took place at Dingle, with postgraduate students in Sociology and Criminology, Dingle residents who were connected to the Hub and students from Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne. Here we asked what are the connections between walking and learning? Over the weekend in March 2020, we discovered that walking helps us, in the words of Tim Ingold, to ‘pay attention' and facilitates conversations between disciplines, enabling a deeper kind of engaged, active, sensory and multi-modal learning. All participants took part in conversations about walking and in walking conversations that enabled dialogue concerning theory, practice and methods (non-procedural methods) about: landscapes; time; the senses; and ecology. Walks were led by artists, historians, geologists, archaeologists and environmentalists, and we all learned so much, gathering together after the walks in world café-style dialogues.

In the Walking Conversations Symposium, we highlighted the fact that walking is foundational to our being human; it helps us to know our limits and captures the senses of our being in the world. Walking involves slowing down the pace of our accelerated society/lives and disconnecting from electronic devices. It opens a space for conversation, for storytelling, for connection with each other, with nature, the natural world, geology, rocks and stones, archaeology, the history revealed by the landscape, ecology and sustainability.

At UCC we now lead a module SC2051 Walking as Critical Pedagogy: walking the Anthropocene. 


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